Another MCAT question: Which materials are best to study while taking prereqs?

Lefty Doodle

7+ Year Member
Jan 24, 2010
261
10
151
Status
Medical Student
I know this has been answered in the 30+ thread, but I can't wade through that again and a quick search didn't turn up a thread on precisely this issue.

Basically, my question is: what materials are best for studying for the MCAT along with your prereqs?

Some background, if you need it or can stand it:

If I end up not going to a formal post-bac, I will be enrolling in a university and doing it all in one year. My plan is to do bio and chem in the summer (this university has a four month summer; 1 month for each semester, this type of approach is great for me as I tend to pour myself into one thing very effectively), then biochemistry, physics, orgo and probably another advanced bio course during the year. I think studying the relevant material from MCAT prep materials would help me as I go along, and then I'll probably do the practice tests/more general review second semester and the few weeks into the summer that I'll have for the test.

Thoughts?
 
Feb 17, 2010
58
0
0
Status
Medical Student
TPR helped me very much. Specially, physical science part is very useful because it is well detailed yet focused on the main topics. Biological sciences were pretty good too.
 

rbg2662

10+ Year Member
Oct 14, 2008
9
0
0
Status
Pre-Medical
I'm a non-trad post bach applicant too. I had to go back and take physics and organic, but I took gen chem I & II again to refresh. The first summer I took the MCAT I didn't do as well as I would have liked, especially on the Bio section. The best thing I ever did was take a grad level physiology class that was taught by an MD. The study guides don't stresss the importance of this and I raised my score on that section significantly. Alot of the passage based questions contain alot of physiology based information and without that knowledge you spend too much time trying to understand what the passage is saying instead of answering the questions.

I took a prep class at the medical school where I live and we used Exam Krackers books, but mainly went through old tests. I like the way EK prepares you for the Verbal section. For the PS section, I did much better when I studied the concepts and didn't try to memorize every single formula, although you need to know the essential ones. I think it's much easier when you can eliminate answers you know are obviously incorrect based on conceptual knowledge. I hope this helps. Good luck!
 

DrSmooth

Secret Recipe Soda
10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Feb 24, 2008
325
0
91
Status
Medical Student
I did my postbacc in one yr, though without that sweet summer schedule you have! I tried my best to prep during the year, but I had to limit it severely because it was taking away from priority #1 at the time, my course grades. So if you are doing A work in Ochem and Physics, are getting your volunteering and/or research done, and still have some extra time, I would highly recommend TBR, especially for the Ochem, Physics, and Gchem. Use TPR for Bio, and EK for VR, and the AAMC official MCAT guide. Basically look at SN2D's MCAT prep plan on the MCAT forum, the materials he recommends would be the best. But if you see your performance in your prereqs slipping at all, don't be afraid to just back off the MCAT prep, or change your focus to strictly VR prep. Remember, the courses you are taking ARE MCAT prep, since they are the only material the MCAT covers. Then, once you are done with finals, make sure you have 1 month minimum to prep full-time (take the mid-June MCAT for sure), using EK along with those other books I already mentioned.

Also, I think you would be doing yourself a disservice to take biochem and upper div bio during your postbacc yr. That is not material tested on the MCAT and will be taking away from both your prereq performance, MCAT prep, and EC time (not to mention $$$). Save those classes for your glide year if you really want to take them. Most schools don't even require them, and if they do you can wait until you are accepted and take them if you have to. Good luck!
 
Jan 1, 2010
16
1
0
Status
Also, I think you would be doing yourself a disservice to take biochem and upper div bio during your postbacc yr. That is not material tested on the MCAT and will be taking away from both your prereq performance, MCAT prep, and EC time (not to mention $$$). Save those classes for your glide year if you really want to take them. Most schools don't even require them, and if they do you can wait until you are accepted and take them if you have to. Good luck!
With all due respect, definitely disagree that it isn't worth while to take biochem during your postbac. I took biochem after the MCAT and the thought in the back of my mind throughout the whole class was that if I would have taken it during I would have upped my BS score by 2 or 3 points. I did fairly well on the MCAT (30+) but could have used more exposure to both bio and biochem before the MCAT.

I am preparing for med school now by studying Lippincott's Biochem, and I can tell you that any prep you can take before starting school will be beneficial.
 

Lefty Doodle

7+ Year Member
Jan 24, 2010
261
10
151
Status
Medical Student
I just have to say, I really appreciate this advice so far!

I am almost certain I will take biochem during the year, provided it fits in with my schedule. I've heard it helps solidify chemistry, orgo AND bio knowledge for the MCAT (in MCAT lingo maybe that's the biological sciences section? I am such a novice at this!) but more importantly one of the med schools I'd really love to go to requires it, and I am sort of wanting to spend my glide year abroad...I don't know if that will work out but I like to keep my options open...

Yeah, I'm not sure about the other things, maybe I'll just audit physiology or cell bio second semester. Not to turn my thread into a different discussion, but let's say I have taken one semester of biochem, what other bio would be most helpful for the MCAT, for me to take or audit second semester (physiology, cell bio, etc.?).

I volunteered my butt off in health-related organizations for 2 years after college (including 1 year of clinical experience) and have been a volunteer translator for social services and health-related materials for four years (I was working in public health in Russia), so I think I'll probably just research during the year, won't overload with volunteering (except for the volunteer translating which I enjoy for keeping up my Russian).

ok done rambling ;-)
 

mspeedwagon

7+ Year Member
Oct 20, 2009
2,097
450
181
Florida
Status
Medical Student
Given the choice between having to take physiology or biochem before the MCAT, I'd definitely take physiology. Do searches here and you'll see that is the nearly universal advice. I think a lot of what I learned in biochem was beyond the scope of the MCAT (and I got from other classes like o-chem II, where our last 1/3 of the course was all biochem). After physiology, I think biochem and cell biology are most helpful (and molecular bio on more recent tests, or so I'm told).


I just have to say, I really appreciate this advice so far!

I am almost certain I will take biochem during the year, provided it fits in with my schedule. I've heard it helps solidify chemistry, orgo AND bio knowledge for the MCAT (in MCAT lingo maybe that's the biological sciences section? I am such a novice at this!) but more importantly one of the med schools I'd really love to go to requires it, and I am sort of wanting to spend my glide year abroad...I don't know if that will work out but I like to keep my options open...

Yeah, I'm not sure about the other things, maybe I'll just audit physiology or cell bio second semester. Not to turn my thread into a different discussion, but let's say I have taken one semester of biochem, what other bio would be most helpful for the MCAT, for me to take or audit second semester (physiology, cell bio, etc.?).

I volunteered my butt off in health-related organizations for 2 years after college (including 1 year of clinical experience) and have been a volunteer translator for social services and health-related materials for four years (I was working in public health in Russia), so I think I'll probably just research during the year, won't overload with volunteering (except for the volunteer translating which I enjoy for keeping up my Russian).

ok done rambling ;-)
 
Last edited:

TexasMDtobe

5+ Year Member
Apr 14, 2010
91
1
91
Status
Medical Student
I second the idea of physiology being good for the MCAT, but in my experience all of the physiology and biochemistry needed for the test itself is covered adequately in the Biology Examkrackers book.

Speaking of, the examkrackers set of 5 books is an excellent resource. They are all I studied for the MCAT, 2 weeks per book with an extra week of overall review at the end (11 weeks total). In combination with the AAMC computer-based practice tests a person can not help but do well.

I wish I had known of the examkrackers books when I was taking the pre-req classes as they efficiently zero in on the major themes of each subject. Not comprehensive enough to replace a textbook but excellent as a secondary source to cement the data. Good luck. . .
 

student1799

"Señora” to you, hombre
10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Jul 8, 2008
1,484
7
91
Status
Medical Student
I don't necessarily think you should try to study for the MCAT while taking your prereq courses. If you're making A's in them and still have time and energy for MCAT prep, go ahead, but otherwise I think your effort is best spent making the best possible grades in those courses.

Once you do start studying for the MCAT (whenever that is), I think your choice of materials will depend on the areas that you personally find challenging. In my case, I needed to work on the PS, especially physics--I could do the problems correctly, but not fast enough to consistently finish on time. I used Kaplan and EK initially, but ultimately found the Berkeley Review physics book was the best tool for the job. (I wish I'd known about it earlier.)

For the BS section, I thought Kaplan and EK were the best. Kaplan had the best practice tests, but I thought the EK books were more helpful for conceptually reviewing the material. As for verbal, I'd recommend EK over anything else. I have never had much trouble with this section (I was a lit major way back when), but I think EK's test questions are closest to the real MCAT. I would also urge you NOT to use any of the Kaplan verbal materials--they are incredibly poor and contain numerous errors, both in the "lessons" and the practice tests. I started out using these materials because they were part of my prep course, but quickly abandoned them, and as soon as I did so my VR score on practice tests went up dramatically. (I scored a 13 in VR on the real MCAT.)

Good luck with your test prep.
 

Lefty Doodle

7+ Year Member
Jan 24, 2010
261
10
151
Status
Medical Student
Thanks everyone (and any more advice is of course welcome!). I start my coursework May 3, so will try to acquire some of these materials before then. I am thinking I will have the materials on hand that you all say will solidify the material I am covering in class, and do specific MCAT prep when I can. Most of the MCAT prep will come in the Fall/Spring though. I will also have a long winter break.

Also, I've seen that Orgo is a must-have in order to do well in Biochem, so I guess I will probably take Biochem after the MCAT and take physiology and cell bio (or molecular bio depending on availability) during the school year next year.

So excited to start this journey!
 

mspeedwagon

7+ Year Member
Oct 20, 2009
2,097
450
181
Florida
Status
Medical Student
Great plan and very similar to my own. I will say though, while I had most of the EK books on hand while I took the courses, it was not very helpful to look at them until I had completed the courses (I didn't really have the time to look at them, and often found that they were testing things I had yet to learn which become somewhat frustrating).

Knowing what I now know, I'd advise finishing a course (after G-Chem II, after Orgo II etc.) and then doing a two week content review and one week of practice with the 1001 books immediately after for that particular subject. This will help re-inforce what you know and make clear what you don't know. Keep notes of areas you are weaker in and read further on these areas. This will help you in the future since if you are weak in the area straight at the end of the course, you're likely to be weaker in the area in the future.


Thanks everyone (and any more advice is of course welcome!). I start my coursework May 3, so will try to acquire some of these materials before then. I am thinking I will have the materials on hand that you all say will solidify the material I am covering in class, and do specific MCAT prep when I can. Most of the MCAT prep will come in the Fall/Spring though. I will also have a long winter break.

Also, I've seen that Orgo is a must-have in order to do well in Biochem, so I guess I will probably take Biochem after the MCAT and take physiology and cell bio (or molecular bio depending on availability) during the school year next year.

So excited to start this journey!